NBA 2K23 Review

September 19, 2022

NBA 2K23 feels like, above all else, a love letter to the history of NBA and basketball in general, which makes it stand out more than usual among its own series of yearly updates. This year’s release in particular seems like it’s trying to expand its reach beyond the usual 2K fans, not only through the inclusion of Space Jam‘s own Michael Jordan as a cover star but further modes which highlight the various eras of basketball that fans might be familiar with. It’s also got a range of a gameplay tweaks that result in a more balanced experience, although as has become customary, if you really want to dedicate a lot of time into the career mode, you’d best be prepared for micro-transactions.

But let’s talk about the good stuff first – the Jordan mode and MyNBA. Obviously, Jordan’s story is well known by this point, and NBA 2K23 allows you to play through the highlights, beginning all the way from his days in college basketball at North Carolina, with each of the 15 games featured framed through interviews with some of the figures who know the most about it. What’s cute about this mode in particular is how much attention to detail has been paid to the look and feel of the games as they progress through tiem, from a general VHS-quality filter that captures what it was like to view those games at the time, to era-appropriate graphics, transitions and directing. It shows a lot of love for sports broadcasting, and helps sell each step of Jordan’s journey by making it feel a little more authentic.

Similarly, the MyNBA offers a way for players to dive into the history of the sport, through ‘Eras’. For instance, you can jump into the ‘Jordan’ era (with a 90’s presentation, including commentary, with appropriate rule set), or go back further to the ‘Magic v Bird’ era, rewinding the clock further to 1983, or fast forward to 2002 and the ‘Kobe’ era and beyond to the ‘Modern’ era. It really lets you go back and manage a franchise through history with all the appropriate fixtures and rosters, but change things to a fairly significant degree to see what could have been, or just to feel the nostalgia of reliving that particular era of basketball. It’s probably the mode that players will be surprised to find themselves spending the most time in, and the attention to detail in the recreation of every era makes it rewarding to actually sit through and play with. It’s also definitely an area that 2K could have some fun expanding further into the past in future releases.

Historically, I haven’t been so much into the online grind of the 2K games, so the single-player experience provided in MyNBA and Jordan modes is already enough to satisfy my tastes, although it is also buoyed by the single-player MyCareer mode, which features another storyline for your player-created character to go through, with a stock-standard rivalry and some simple morality-based choices to make along the way (which apparently are meant to affect gameplay, by developing your character’s ‘personality’, although I never noticed much of a difference). Its fun, but nothing remarkable, with the choices never feeling quite as entertainingly extreme as the old standby Mass Effect‘s Paragon/Renegade moments.

There’ve been gameplay tweaks and changes across the board, with a raft of new animations helping players seem much more lifelike more of the time, despite a handful of instances remaining each match where opponents can herk and jerk around a bit on their footing. Shooting in particular has changed, with a shot meter that seems to leave little room for error, requiring that you nail the precise timing to actually pull off most of your shots. Sprinting now consumes a new adrenaline bar, which has to be managed alongside stamina. These changes don’t necessarily make gameplay harder, just more balanced with a little more training and thought put into moves on behalf of the player. Somewhat like the actual sport, I suppose. I should also mention the return of ‘The W’ mode, which features the WNBA, which is a welcome inclusion alongside the main content, although it worth noting is locked to next-gen consoles.

MyCareer has also made improvements to the hub City area, which still unfortunately feels a bit like a stiff RPG, showing the engine’s still clearly meant for basketball and not much else (not even the skateboarding they shove in here). Of course, the elephant in the room with both MyCareer and MyTeam is that to be anywhere near competitive online, you’ll either need to grind an increasingly insane amount, or you’ll need to invest in microtransactions to have a chance of finding a fun game where you’re not immediately slaughtered. Even the included currency in the some of the many special editions you can purchase isn’t really enough to get you started, and while it might go without saying that NBA 2K fans are aware that online play in this series requires ongoing investment, new players should be given fair warning. I also need to point out the egregious install-size of this game, over 140GB on PS5, which is absolutely presumptuous given the overall meagre size of the console’s internal SSD.

However, if you’re like me and can dabble in the online modes of NBA 2K23 for fun without feeling the need to actually remain competitive, you’ll probably find more to love in the rest of NBA 2K23‘s impressive presentation of the recent history of modern basketball. In a continuum of these yearly releases, 2K23 stands out as the one that is most likely to attract fans of the sport with the love and attention that has been paid to its MyNBA and Jordan modes, as well as its general reverence for the feel and atmosphere in each of the eras it represents. It’s an excellent tour through NBA history. It’s still a microtransaction-heavy outing though, especially for the players who’ll dedicated hundreds of hours online, but at this point it’s probably come to be expected.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed NBA 2K23 on PlayStation 5 with review code provided by the publisher. 


-Full to the brim with reverence for NBA's history
-Plenty of depth for sports fans, especially in MyNBA Eras
-New visual tweaks and enhancements help enhance the overall package


-Micro-transactions still abundant and necessary for advancement, especially in MyCareer

Overall Score: